Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was caught in an extramarital affair with a co-worker and played a key early role in the Russia collusion probe, says he is the victim.
In a new court filing, Mr. Strzok accused the Justice Department of violating his constitutional rights to privacy and free speech when it fired him over a slew of anti-President Trump text messages exchanged with his paramour, FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
The former G-Man made the claim in response to the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit he filed in August seeking to reclaim his old job.
He had been a top FBI counterespionage official and a played a leading role in the bureau’s investigations into both Mr. Trump’s Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s secret email server while she was secretary of state in the Obama administration.
The new filing in a Washington federal court called it “terrifying” that the Justice Department would fire an employee for his private speech.
“Firing an employee for the content of his or her nonpublic communications is unconstitutional, irrespective of any balancing interests, including damage to reputation and other factors,” Mr. Strzok’s attorneys wrote.
Justice Department lawyers have argued that Mr. Strzok should not have expected privacy because he was communicating on FBI-issued phones.
But attorneys for Mr. Strzok countered that would subject government workers to punishment for expressing their opinions “in private water cooler conversations.”
“The government’s argument would leave thousands of career federal government employees without protections from discipline over the content of their political speech,” he wrote.
Mr. Strzok was fired from the FBI last year after the Justice Department inspector general uncovered tranches of texts between the agent and Ms. Page.
The discovery of the texts led to the removal of Mr. Strzok in 2017 from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that was investigating allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia to affect the presidential race.
Several of the texts lambasting Mr. Trump were exchanged in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The lovebirds fretted that Mr. Trump would be elected.
In one text, Ms. Page wrote that Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Mr. Strzok replied, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Mr. Strzok told Congress last year that when he said, “we’ll stop it,” he was referring to voters.
During a trip to a Walmart in southern Virginia, Mr. Strzok texted Ms. Page that he could “smell” the Trump support. Other texts called the president “an idiot” and “loathsome.”
The president has fired back at the two FBI officials, repeatedly mocking them during campaign rallies and in tweets. He called Mr. Strozk “a sick loser,” “a fraud,” “incompetent” and “corrupt.”
Mr. Trump also has suggested that Mr. Strzok got a restraining order against Ms. Page and made fun of a lovemaking session between them.
Ms. Page has filed a similar lawsuit against the Justice Department, saying it violated her rights by releasing the texts to reporters.